No doubt, robotics will be decisive for healthcare in the near future. But are we there yet?

This was the underlying question of the discussion about functional medical assistance devices on Tuesday, October 20 at the CUAS in Villach.

Jointly organized by FH Kärnten, Silicon Alps and the GMAR (Gesellschaft für Mess- Automatisierungs- und Robotertechnik), the Robotics Talks under the title ‘Feeling MAD – Functional Medical Assistance Devices’ took place on October 20 at the FH Kärnten – Carinthia University of Applied Sciences (CUAS).

The motto has majorly been motivated by a recently emphasized research focus at CUAS in this area. In cooperation, the research team is jointly developing technologies towards 3D-printed and additively manufactured lightweight and functional medical assistance devices, such as rehabilitation robots, orthoses, splints, prosthesis, exoskeletons – in this context especially also for human-device-interaction.

This research is highly motivated by the common goal to improve user well-being. This major human factor is addressed by the colleagues from active assisted living (AAL). Collaborators in this context are Dipl. Daniela Krainer (user-centered design, AAL), Prof. Dr. Franz Oswald Riemelmoser (3D-printing and lightweight construction) and Lisa-Marie Faller (robotics, functional components) who was also the initiator of this workshop.

More than 40 participants took part in a hybrid and live discussion about rehabilitation and care robotics. The invited speakers from the resorts of the industry, Dr. Alexander Kollreider – Tyromotion, as well as health care, Prof. Dr. Peter Grieshofer – Klinikum Judendorf-Strassengel, and academia (Prof. Dr. Markus Vincze – TU Wien and Dipl. Daniela Krainer – CUAS) presented their perspectives on this field of research and fostered vivid discussions about the general acceptance of robotics in rehabilitation and care.

While Prof. Vincze concluded that we are yet far from employing robots in care, Tyromotion is currently successfully distributing rehabilitation robotics as a mean to support therapists and patients in their training. Also, according to Dipl. Krainer, such system provide substantial benefits for both of these stakeholder groups and can be successfully used to support training, but they can never replace the therapist.

Overall, developments towards improved ease-of-use, lightweight construction and functionalization (additional sensors and actuators) are currently on the research agenda for upcoming and future projects.

As a highlight of the event, Alois Bauer, CTO of Mattro, showcased their impressive Rovo 2 and left some of the participants stunned by its speed and precision.